The irrelevance of direction of fit


The so-called ‘Humean’ view of motivation is pretty standard in the Philosophy of Mind. Its most prominent contemporary defender, Michael Smith, calls it a ‘dogma’. Humeans believe in a strict divide between beliefs and desires. Beliefs have no intrinsic motivating force: I may believe anything at all, but only with the contribution of a separate desire will I be motivated to act. This claim should be broadened out to include all cognitive states (belief, knowledge…). The Humean claim is that cognitive states are wholly lacking in conative power. If some beliefs seem to us to motivate action, that can only be due to a contingent association with a separate conative state.

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Iain Law
University of Birmingham

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